A couple of imminent shows in or around jazz (and in or around London and Birmingham)…
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Possessed of a boisterously convivial and adventurous set of guitar tones (as well as a spontaneous but eminently accessible creativity), Mike Outram is one of a number of contemporary electric guitarists who define themselves via the act of music rather than the reinforcement of genre. Although jazz enthusiasts will rightly admire him for his work with Nikki Iles, Tim Garland, Theo Travis’s Double Talk and Billy Bottle & The Multiple, Mike learns from and adds to whichever situation or artist he works with outside of jazz, be it soul pop with Carleen Anderson, latterday prog fusion with Steven Wilson or the classical/soundtrack work of composer Laura Rossi. As well as pursuing a serious, thoughtful sideline in bass guitar playing – something which he’s come to take as seriously as his guitar work – Mike’s a teaching professor at several eminent colleges, and the instigator of Electric Campfire, an online music course which has rapidly billowed into a musical community in its own right.
Though this gig is billed as being Mike’s trio, it actually stems from a partnership of equals, and predominantly from a 2010 album called ‘Invenzioni’, a set of improvised duets between Mike and eclectic alt.fusion bassist Steve Lawson. A committed solo performer since 2000, dedicated to presenting bass guitar as a standalone instrument, Steve has also been an enthusiastic and garrulous collaborator. His conversational fretless bass tones, Kaoss Pad rhythmic experiments and panoramic swathing loopscapes have meshed with a wide variety of partners from pianists, saxophonists, singers and drummers to electric kora players and a range of other amenable solo bassists. His own relaxed attitude to genre has resulted in a musical voice which strolls from place to place, touching on points from smooth-hipped jazz to art-rock, slick pop to noisy improv, dance electronica to ambient-aquatic sound painting, but never being tied down to any of them.
The final member of the trio is Emre Ramazanoglu, a multi-genre drummer, programmer, writer and producer who generally works (semi-invisibly) behind the scenes in the music industry, at the points where high-level musical chops, cunning production ideas and rapidly-evolving technology mesh with contemporary pop music production and bespoke event soundtracks. In between the demands of catwalk and chart, he fits in more esoteric, less overtly commercial work such as writing and shaping new records for reggae stalwarts Trojan, playing the Adrian Sherwood/remixological role on Martin France’s Spin Marvel jazztronica project, and co-running quirky sound design outfit Rattly’n’Raw. However, Emre originally came to London as a highly skilled jobbing drummer, and this gig gives him the opportunity to work with his original talents (although you can also expect him to blend in something of what he’s learned since that time, and probably to come armed to the teeth with portable rhythm and sound-shaping technology).
You can hear the basis of this particular strand of music – albeit minus Emre’s drumming – on the five tracks of ‘Invenzione’, in which Mike and Steve float thoughtfully down a stream of jazz-tinted ambient invention (echoing at points David Torn, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck and perhaps a little Sonny Sharrock or Bill Frisell, but most often themselves) carrying out a loose, gently shaped conversation like two old buddies. I’m guessing that throwing Emre into the mix will probably pick up the relaxed rhythmic threads of this project, jerk them taut, and reign them back towards a purer jazz pulse; or something more along the lines of Mike’s skitter post-jazz-rock improv trio Snow Giants. The trio promise “an evening of world-class improvised music”: judging by the personalities involved, it’ll probably be laced with bonhomie, humour, informality and a general sense of being off the leash while not being too precious about it.
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A few nights later, Steve Lawson will be throwing an album launch show in his adopted hometown of Birmingham (and his adopted home venue Tower Of Song), and everyone’s invited.
The album in question is ‘The Surrender Of Time’ – Steve’s fifteenth work of bass, loops and effects, and his second of 2016 (following this summer’s defiant, sometimes heartbroken album of instrumental reflections on the EU referendum). Out on September 5th, early copies of ‘The Surrender Of Time’ will come with a download of a side project, a single twenty-two minute track called Colony Collapse Disorder, Judging by the ‘Surrender Of Time’ excerpt below, Steve’s music is getting ever more unclassifiable at the edges: in this case glitchier, his bass shrouded and layered with drum effects and hard-rock distortions, with elements of experimental techno pulled apart and deliquesced by his jazz instincts.
You could read various things into this, including Steve’s increasing and frequently voiced disquiet at the fissile, wasteful and irrational state of the world (away from his bass, and frequently while still holding it, he’s a broad and assertive social media commentator, a vocal soapboxer and an outspoken humanitarian). Given that Colony Collapse Disorder is named after an inexplicable disintegration of bee colonies (and is variously and speculatively blamed on various causes including long-term pesticide effects, habitat destruction or ill-advised changes in beekeeping practises) you could see some of this recent work as moving into angrier, more sorrowful metaphors. But I’m speculating – and you certainly shouldn’t attend the gig expecting to see a man collapsed and sobbing over his pedalboard. Judging by the tone of most Lawson gigs, this will be puckish, celebratory, familial and musically immersive: and, at root, based around shareable melodies.
Steve promises “a fun night, plenty of hang time, maybe a special guest or two.” I reckon that it’s a pretty safe bet that his singer-songwriter wife Lobelia Lawson will be among the latter, but since Steve’s address book and musical dance-partner card stretches across a wide range of people from Michael Manring to Kristin Hersh via Cleveland Watkiss, Jon Thorne, Theo Travis and Daniel Berkman (and since he’s generally happy to play alongside whichever instrument and musician comes onstage with sufficient skill plus an open mind), expect anything.